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Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg go so well together, it’s surprising they haven’t worked together more. The five movies they have made together have collected a total of 21 Oscar nominations and grossed well over a billion dollars worldwide. The Terminal, while modestly financially successful, contributed zero of those Academy Award nods, and is probably considered the weakest of their five collaborations by most critics.
Is that appraisal fair? A gentle comedy-drama about an eastern European man who winds up stranded at John F. Kennedy airport when his fictional home country collapses into civil war, it’s probably the most lightweight film the two have done together, eschewing big political themes and dramatic tension for the kind of broad sentimentality that Spielberg is both loved and derided for.
Hanks is absolutely the saving grace of the movie, navigating the occasionally wild shifts in tone with by imbuing his potentially one-note caricature of a character with deep reserves of dignity and humanity. It’s a deceptively high wire act, even the heavy eastern European accent stays mostly on the right side of hammy. (Although Krakhozia is a fictional country, Hanks is speaking Bulgarian throughout the movie – a language he picked up from his father-in-law).
Where the movie falls down is in the depiction of virtually every other character. Stanley Tucci is one of the great screen curmudgeons, but his character ranges from seemingly well-meaning slave to the system to cartoonish villainy virtually from scene to scene. Catherine Zeta Jones, fresh from her Oscar win for Chicago, is even more poorly served with a vapid flake of a character who exists only to give Hanks a superfluous romantic sub-plot. The less said about the secondary Diego Luna / Zoe Saldana love story, in which the latter is described as a ‘wild stallion’ who must be ‘tamed’, the better…
Tune into this week’s podcast to hear our full, decidedly mixed thoughts on The Terminal, including our celebrated drinking games, listener reviews and some sequel ideas that revisit the characters some fifteen years later. You can download or stream the episode absolutely free by following the links at the top of this blog post, or by searching for Beyond The Box Set on your preferred podcasting app.
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Next week, we’ll be taking a special request for one of the great modern romantic comedies. Until then, happy listening and always check your Visa…